Are Essential Oils Safe for Pets?

By Sarah Hinds Friedl on January 18th, 2022

Whether you use them for relaxation, pain relief, or as part of your all-natural cleaning solutions, you probably already know how versatile essential oils are.

But—are these concentrated fragrances safe for use around dogs, cats and any other pets you have at home? If you’ve done a quick internet search, you might not be sure! In this article, we’ll give you both sides so that you can make the best choice for your pupper.

Get ready to awaken your senses to the truth behind essential oils for dogs!

What does your local vet say about essential oils for dogs?
In many cases, members of the veterinary community recommend avoiding the use of essential oils around pets. After all, there is a risk of toxicity if your pet has ingested or come into contact with these products, and the outcomes can range from mild skin rashes and respiratory irritation to severe medical emergencies. 

Cats seem to be especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of essential oils, as their livers are incapable of metabolizing the chemical compounds in some types of essential oils like tea tree oil. Cats also tend to groom themselves more frequently than dogs, putting them at higher risk for ingestion of essential oil particles in the air.

You might argue, of course, that as long as you dilute the essential oil and keep it out of reach of your pets, they’ll be fine. And this could be true! But, your vet may still hesitate to give you the go-ahead simply because it can be tricky to know exactly how much essential oil your pet can tolerate. Factors like your pet’s size, age, medical history, and unique ability to metabolize toxins will all play a role in whether they will experience a negative reaction to essential oils. 

What scientific studies have been done about essential oils and dogs?
To be sure, it’s always a good idea to follow your vet’s advice and limit your pet’s exposure to a potentially toxic substance. But, you may be interested to know that the scientific community isn’t done with essential oils for pets just yet! In fact, researchers have been wondering whether essential oils could provide health benefits for dogs and cats when used appropriately. Here are a few of their findings:

  • Essential Oils may help fight bacterial infections. A 2020 study published in Veterinary Sciences explored the antimicrobial properties of some essential oils such as litsea cubeba and rose geranium. According to their research, essential oils could be used as a remedy for fungal infections, staph infections, E. coli and more. That said, many of the results came from studies focusing on in vitro treatment, so more research needs to be done to verify whether adult animals could benefit from essential oil treatment.
  • The right essential oil mix could ward off ticks. Also in 2020, researchers in Egypt published an article detailing the effectiveness of essential oils to treat tick infestations. They found that a mixture of garlic, rapeseed, and rosehip oils not only warded off or killed ticks, but also shortened the recovery time for dogs experiencing allergic reactions to tick bites. During the trial, kidney and liver function was closely monitored for signs of toxicity, and the dogs seemed to suffer no adverse reactions.
  • Lavender oil may promote relaxation in dogs. Two studies have been dedicated to the potential use of lavender as aromatherapy for dogs. In the first, dogs overly excited by traveling in cars were shown to calm down significantly when exposed to the scent of lavender. The second study monitored the heart rates of Beagles after topical application of lavender oil. When first tested, the Beagles showed lower heart rates after receiving the treatment, but the data was inconsistent in subsequent trials. 

As you can see, when it comes to scientific studies, well, there simply aren’t many. And, while the ones that have been published are hopeful, the researchers themselves will tell you that there’s still a lot to learn about the medicinal uses of essential oils. 

How can you make the best decision for your dog?
Unfortunately, there is no black-or-white answer to whether you can use essential oils around your dog. The main takeaways seem to be that animals can tolerate some exposure to essential oils and may even experience some of the same benefits as humans. But until more research is done on the safety of essential oils, consider following these guidelines:

  • Avoid tea tree oil entirely. Tea tree oil seems to be one of the most common sources of essential oil toxicity in animals, so keep this one out of your collection.
  • Keep your space well-ventilated. Fresh air can help to dilute EOs so that your pet is less likely to ingest them. If you have a diffuser in your car, for instance, keep the windows rolled down to keep a steady flow of air for your dog. Installing BreezeGuard screens on your windows is a fantastic way to ensure good airflow while keeping your dog safe in the backseat.
  • Take your pets out of the room when using EOs. Even in well-ventilated spaces, EOs can linger in the air for a matter of hours. If you will be cleaning a room of your home with EO cleaning products, you might consider moving your cat into another part of the house or taking your dog on an outing until the air has cleared.  
  • Stop use if your pet shows signs of discomfort. If you notice your pets coughing or scratching at their nose and eyes, these could be early signs of essential oil irritation or toxicity. Stop use immediately and call your vet if the symptoms worsen.

At the end of the day, you want your furbaby to be healthy, comfortable, and happy in their home. That might mean taking it easy on the essential oils or even replacing them entirely with dog-friendly fragrances like lavender bouquets or stove-top potpourri with cinnamon and apples! Your pupper will appreciate the compromise!

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